Letter From Claverack Friday, September 1, 2017 From the safety of the cottage, tears…

Earlier today, I went to pick up the mail at the Post Office and as I was about to turn off the car, an interview started on NPR with Andrew White who, along with hundreds of other volunteer Texans, formed what is known as the “Texas Navy” and went out into the flooded streets of Houston.  With a sixteen-foot boat and a twenty-horsepower motor and the help of friends, he rescued at least a hundred people, including a man with cerebral palsy and a man who was being treated for cancer and was having a bad reaction to his treatment and needed to get to his hospital.  They got him within two blocks of where he needed to go; later the water in the neighborhood of the man with cerebral palsy rose another five feet after the rescue.

Sitting there, tears began flowing down my cheeks.  Andrew White’s story was replicated by others all over Harris County which holds the city of Houston, citizen volunteers taking care of other citizens in need.  It was the story of what is so often wonderful about this country.

Writing about it causing tears to build in my eyes and I am sniffling.

These are the stories, replicated in all kinds of tragedies around this country, that are the reasons we are great.  Oh, we’re miserable S.O.B.’s sometimes but when it comes to disaster, we rise to the challenge in an incredible way and that makes me proud.

From Louisiana came the “Cajun Navy” that formed after Katrina, men and women who knew firsthand what was happening on the ground in Texas and they brought in their bayou boats and lent a hand, calling it “paying it forward.”  Just as Texans had come to help them in Katrina.

Houston is home to thousands of refugees from Katrina, people who have found it hard to believe they are living through this twice in their lives.

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans has raised over $12 million between practices for the coming season, coming off the field to work the phones.

Watt’s hometown is Pewaukee, WI and semis are traveling from there loaded with food and water and supplies.  He started out with a goal of raising $200,000 and he just kept on going.  Texas billionaire, Michael Dell, has pledged $36 million.

A group of “monster trucks,” organized by a group called Rednecks with Paychecks, is roaming the area, rescuing people and vehicles.

440,000 people have registered for aid from FEMA, as the Mayor of Houston is appealing for an “army” of FEMA officials to help with the claims.

The area that was water covered was larger than the state of Rhode Island.  As the water recedes, it leaves behind contaminated water unfit for human consumption, filled with pathogens.  Shelters, sometimes islands in a sea of water, are running low or out of food and water.

The damaged Arkema chemical plant can no longer cool the dangerous materials stored there and authorities have evacuated everyone within a mile and a half of the facility.  There have been “pops” and plumes of smoke from the plant with no one knowing whether that’s all there is going to be or if it is just the beginning.  “Brock” Long, head of FEMA, called the situation there incredibly dangerous.

Bowling alleys are filled with people; Walmart parking lots have been helipads.

And what is amazing and so wonderful and so DAMN great, is that so much of what is happening is unorganized.  It is just people getting out to help other people.  One man observed that no one was really organizing anything.  People seemed to have an instinct for what needed to be done.

Like the “Texas Navy” and Andrew White, who it turns out is the son of a former Texas governor who passed away last month, and the people in the “Cajun Navy.”

People helping other people in a way that moves me to tears, far away, in the soft safety of my cottage.

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